“A wonderful tale of lesbian and literary New York in the 1980s, often funny, sometimes raunchy, sometimes romantic, and always real. Paula Martinac has a gift for bringing different pasts to life. Her portrait of the difficult friendship between two women of contrasting generations is both generous and wise.”– Christopher Bram, author of Gods and Monsters
Clio Rising, the latest novel by Paula Martinac, was published April 23, 2019. Paula will be reading excerpts from the book at her book release at Park Road Books (4139 Park Road) on Wednesday, May 8, from 7:00 to 8:30 pm.
Paula lives in NoDa and teaches creative writing at UNCC. In 1990, her novel Out of Time won the Lambda Literary Award for Lesbian Fiction. Recently, the mill town setting of her novel The Ada Decades was partially based on NoDa and was featured in the April 2017 NoDa News.
She told us, “In a funny way, Clio Rising grew out of The Ada Decades, although they’re very different books. In one chapter of Ada, the two main characters make a trip from Charlotte to New York City in the early 1980s. Writing the chapter made me kind of nostalgic for NYC, where I lived as a young writer, and I wanted to return to that time and place.”
Clio Rising tells the story of young Livvie Bliss, who moves from North Carolina to New York to pursue a career in publishing and, more importantly, to live openly as a lesbian. After struggling to make it in the big city, Livvie is finally hired by a literary agency to assist Clio Hartt, an irritable and cloistered 80-something-year-old writer who has rarely left her Greenwich Village apartment in four decades.
The two connect around their shared North Carolina heritage. Paula shares, “In Clio, I created two characters who have a working relationship in NYC circa 1983. One is an idealistic young woman from Asheville; the other is a misanthropic octogenarian novelist from Hendersonville. About two-thirds of the way through the novel, they take a trip back to western North Carolina that shakes up both of their worlds. It was fun for me to ‘revisit’ a Manhattan that doesn’t exist anymore and to imagine Asheville in its grittier days.”
The story unfolds, and uncomfortable parallels emerge as Livvie learns more about Clio’s new manuscript and her romantic relationship with a playwright. In Clio’s final days the writer shares a secret that could upend not only Livvie’s life but the entire literary establishment.
“Clio Rising is about trying to find a new home for yourself when you’re queer because the place you come from isn’t a good fit,” says Paula. “Livvie and Clio are both transplants from North Carolina. Though from different generations, they’re equally invested in reinventing themselves—and together they discover that home runs much deeper in their blood than they ever realized.”
Clio Rising is published by Bywater Books, producing commercial fiction for lesbians, feminists, and all readers. Purchase the novel from local bookstores or online.